Sunday, December 30, 2012

Website restructuring

Today i've launched an important upgrade to the blog, by starting to get back to the ten main pages you can access from the Header. These pages contain interesting, but by now old and in some cases outdated, information. In the next while i will try to modernize them and make them relevant again.

Today i've started by improving the Future Force 2020 - Army page. I've kept the old, major overview of the Army that was in there, which contains data and my personal proposals about the original plan for 5 multi role brigades. However, on top of the page there is now a list of links, that i'll keep up to date, leading directly to the articles i've written on Army 2020 since it was announced last July.
These links lead to up to date information, and will make it easier for you to follow the story of Army 2020 from announcement to, hopefully, full implementation.This way it will be no longer necessary to navigate the Archive to find relevant articles about the Army.

It is my objective to improve the other pages too, in good time. For example, i've also made sure to add to the Royal Navy page sections containing links to the successive articles with which i've followed the evolution of the Type 45, Type 26 frigate and MARS FT. The lists of links will always have the newest articles on top.

It should make it much easier for you readers to follow things as they develop. I believe, and i don't think it is arrogance, that this website offers, so far, the most detailed review available to the general public about topics such as the Type 26, and grouping the articles together will make it easier to access to all the data.

Hoping you will enjoy,


Thursday, December 27, 2012

The MOD's 10 year budget

Both the MOD and the NAO are late and have missed their "hoped for" release dates for the Basing Plan, 10-year Equipment plan, NAO evaluation paper of the same document and the NAO Major Projects Report 2012. They were all due in the Autumn, or anyway before Christmas, but they have all slipped, and are now expected to make interesting the months of January and February.

Waiting for their release, i can however provide some more details on the famous 10 year budget, at least in terms of money and concept, thanks to what Jon Thompson, Permanent Under Secretary, Ministry of Defence, and David Williams, Acting Director General Finance, Ministry of Defence, said to the Parliamentary Defence Committee on Wednesday 12 December. The uncorrected evidence is available here.

First of all it must be noted that the 10-year budget relates to equipment: it is the amount of money the MOD will have to acquire, operate, upgrade and support existing and future equipment. It includes the cost of running kit already in service; but it has nothing to share with funding for basing, accommodations and personnel. These are budgets in their own right, and an announcement on the money available for the basing of the forces is expected early into the next year: this is a particularly important area, as the army returns from Germany and adapts to its Army 2020 plan.  

It has emerged that the 10-years budget includes several layers of built-in flexibility, with contingency money available to cover cost-growth and unpredicatable issues and urgent requirements that might always emerge, depending on the military situation.

Then there is, as we know, a Core Committed Budget, which is money already allocated to specific programs: we do not yet know all of the programs on the list, but several have been revealed and are, indeed, very evident to the eyes of anyone: from the Carriers to the 7 Astute submarines, from Typhoon to A400 Atlas, and for the Army the Warrior CSP, Apache CSP, Challenger 2 CSP later in the decade, FRES SV and FRES UV, plus Foxhound and other systems.

Then there is an as yet uncommitted amount of money - some 8 billion pounds - which will be, in time, assigned to a number of other procurement programs.

These "other programs" are included in what the MOD calls Single Integrated Capability Priority List (SICPL), nicknamed "White Board". This list includes requirements from the three services that haven't yet been assigned a budget, and have seen no contracts signed. According to Jon Thompson, the value of the items on the list ranges somewhere between 7 and 12 billion, with the value "continuining to reduce", which suggests that the service chiefs are still engaged in a process to decide what is really necessary, and what can be postponed further.

The MOD's Equipment Plan, to be published in the near future, will provide indications on what exactly is part of the Core committed budget, either already under contract or anyway firmly planned for the next few years, while the White Board remains an internal list that the MOD is not keen to reveal. In the words of Mr. Thompson:

The white board are those things that we would like to do over time in order to fully deliver all the public aspects of Future Force 2020, which were announced in the SDSR. We have 10 years to do that. That, if you like, is the list of the things that we would like to do in that period of time. As the Secretary of State also said on 14 May, we have £8 billion of financial headroom over that 10-year period. Our funding assumption at that time was that we had £161 billion to spend, but the core programme was £153 billion, and therefore you have £8 billion of headroom.

On the other side of that equation, you have the white board of things that you want to do over that period. As we enter the annual budgeting process, we can see how much of the headroom is available and what we would like to pull off the white board and commit ourselves to, so that over the 10-year period, you would spend the £161 billion and deliver all the items on the white board. That is the conceptual framework.
The Type 26 frigate is part of the Core Committed Budget, with planning assumption for 13 hulls to be built, Mr. Thompson assures. 
However, i must note that much of the actual building phase of the ships will be outside the current 10-year plan, so that the money currently allocated covers the design phase and the building of the very first ships, assuming that the first hull is built as planned from 2018 and enters service in 2021. 
The current planning assumption appears to be a 12-months interval between one Type 26 and another, which would mean the last would be launched in 2034 or later (compatible with the plan that sees the last Type 23 bow out of service in 2036).

Another program "with a very long tail" is the F35, and Thompson makes another very interesting statement regarding this particular program, confirming that the 10-year plan includes funding for 48 airplanes. According to my interpretation of the MOD's Business Plan 2012-2015, the 48 F35Bs will all be delivered to the MOD by 2023. 

Jon Thompson: The Joint Strike Fighter has a very long tail. It is more than 10 years. Our commitment over the first 10 years is for 48, which was part of the announcements on 10 May in relation to the reversion to STOVL. Over time, we would expect the number to rise to beyond three figures, but that would be in the second decade.

Thomas Docherty: So there are 48 in the core equipment programme, and any beyond that would be effectively on the white board.

Jon Thompson: No; because it goes beyond the decade, that is an issue that can be considered in the next SDSR, and then you would think about it in longer terms. We are only talking here about the 10-year period.

The Core budget was determined in a relatively simple way:

David Williams: If it helps in terms of the content of the core equipment programme, the way in which we built the content of that programme up over the 10-year period was to start off with everything that was contractually committed, to add in the deterrent and wider nuclear submarine enterprise costs, and then to add in as the next layer other projects to which there had been a ministerial commitment. The most recent set of those, at the time, was the announcements that Liam Fox had made in July 2011 around carrier, Type 26, aspects of the armoured fighting programme, Chinook and Air Seeker. We then added in a degree of contingency or financial realism on top, took stock of how much headroom we had against the forecast budget over the period and decided how much of that we wanted to allocate out and how much we wanted to retain as unallocated provision or headroom for the future.

In terms of nuclear deterrence, the expenditure goes on well past the end of the current 10-years planning horizon, but it is interesting to note that the current planning is made on the assumption that the Vanguards will be replaced like for like, four new boats to replace the four old ones. A wise way to proceed. 
Naturally, we know what we are contractually committed to, but very often the MOD deals with costs that aren't initially clear, and that are often subject to variations. Cost growth has been a serious issue for Defence, and so the 153 billions of the Core budget include a contingency of 4.9 billion (more than the "4 billion" figure originally announced): 148 billions are already set aside and assigned, with some 4900 million pounds destined to cover cost growth, variations etcetera. This is extremely important, especially because there are important items in the equipment program that do not yet have a clear pricetag: namely, the F35B.

Thomas Docherty: Hang on-I am going to end up down a cul-de-sac if I am not too careful. Let us take one single item, the Joint Strike Fighter. We are buying 48 of them.

Jon Thompson: Yes.

Thomas Docherty: But you do not know how much they are going to cost? Because the US Air Force do not know much they are going to cost, the Chief of Defence Materiel does not know, and the US Congress do not know. It is going to cost you more than you think because the cost keeps going in the wrong direction. So you do not have £8 billion to play with because you are going to have to use some of that £8 billion if you have committed to buying 48.

Jon Thompson: As David said, the way in which we have approached that is that we have used the best information we have about what the programme is currently estimated to cost, and that is in the core assumption, the £153 billion. Then we added in £4.9 billion of risk provision within the core programme on the assumption that, as some of these programmes mature, the cost will rise. Then, rather than having to cancel a project that you have already committed to, you can use some of that risk provision, which is built into the £153 billion.

Thomas Docherty: Is that £4.9 billion out of your £8 billion?

David Williams: No, it is in addition.

Jon Thompson: It is in addition.

Thomas Docherty: So you have got £8 billion, then you have got another £4.9 billion?

Jon Thompson: Yes.

Thomas Docherty: Is that £4.9 billion within your £153 billion?

Jon Thompson: Yes.

The use of contingency money specifically set aside to tackle in-year changes to procurement contracts is a conceptually simple but absolutely vital change in the way the MOD works. A change that i've been praying for, for a long time, because the lack of spare money in the pockets in the past has been the cause of an endless series of program cancellations and delaying, which has resulted in lost capability and in monstrous cost escalations. As Thompson explains:

[...] in the past, if you go back two or three years, the way in which the Ministry of Defence approached this was to say, "We have a cost increase on a programme-what shall we do now? Everything is committed, so we will have to cancel something else." Or, as in the most extreme version, the carrier decisions in 2009, "We will stretch out that programme over a longer period of time," which leads to a sub-optimal value for money solution.

The disasterous delay imposed to CVF actually dates 2008, and calling it sub-optimal is really an understatement: according to the NAO, the 2-years delay is responsible for the 1.56 billion increase in cost in the long term that allows opponents of the carrier program to call it a "5 billion program".  It is not. It has been turned into one by a blaring example of financial madness.
Unable to spend some 405 million in-year (which weren't even a cost increase, but just the normal expenditure needed to continue with the original pace set for the CVF contract), the MOD ended up condemning itself to spend over 1500 millions over the rest of the program. And this is just one example, of many that could be made. It is absolutely evident that this must not happen again. 

Is there any indication on what sits on the White Board?
Yes, there are some.

Thompson seems to confirm my interpretation of the little information so far available on the MARS Solid Support Ship, for example: the Core Committed budget includes money for the development of the design of the ships, but their procurement for the moment sits on the White Board, and will move into the Core budget only in the next few years.
Always in terms of requirements not currently funded we have the Fast Landing Craft for the Royal Marines, which was confirmed at the time of the SDSR but is currently on hold, on the White Board.
Further investments into ISTAR, including probably new drones for the Navy and the Army, sit on the White Board, along with other programs, many of which relate to Combat Support and Combat Service Support for the Army. I believe, for example, that the modernisation of the Warrior FV514 Artillery Observation vehicle is likely to be found on the White Board, along very possibly with the long-term replacement of the DROPS trucks (the interim solution has been identified in the EPLS already in use as UOR in Afghanistan), Light Equipment Transporter trucks and General Service Tanker truck replacements.

Another interesting aspect regarding the budget is the significant underspend that was reported in-year. The Hearing provides an explanation:

In relation to 2012-13, the current financial year, we are currently in negotiation to transfer £1.5 billion of the defence budget from the current year into the next two financial years. If we are successful in those conversations with the Treasury, that will be appropriately disclosed to Parliament in supplementary estimates in January.

The MOD is not normally allowed to move money from a budget year to the following ones: the Treasury normally claws back every penny that is not spent. Fortunately, the MOD has been improving its management enough since the SDSR that the negotiations with the Treasury were successful, and a special permission has been gained to move the unspent money into the next two financial years. 

The huge 1.5 billion underspend in-year is due to several factors:

There are three areas that give rise to the sum. First, we have established an unallocated provision in every single year. In the current year, that is approximately £500 million. Secondly, although we think that we have improved the overall costing of the equipment programme, and we have a more stable programme, the programme delivery profile moves slightly back in every financial year. We are therefore looking to transfer half a billion pounds from the current year to future years because the programmes have moved back slightly. Then we have made £500 million of provisions in the wake of the SDSR, either for industrial liabilities or for redundancy payments that we do not think we need in the current financial year. So there are three reasons for it. It depends on how you like to define an underspend.

We earlier saw how the Equipment budget has a 4.9 billion contingency reserve of money. The 500 millions of unallocated provision in-year here mentioned is another layer of financial flexibility and protection:

We spoke earlier about, within the equipment plan across the 10-year period, £4.9 billion-worth of contingency and then £8 billion-worth of headroom, as a second layer. As the third layer in balancing the budget last year, we have put across the entire programme, so not specifically for equipment issues, further unallocated provision, which was £500 million this year and it is about £200 million a year, or thereabouts, across the 10-year period.

The equipment is not the only source of unexpected expenses in year, so the MOD has wisely decided to set aside a certain amount of money, not specifically tied to equipment, to cover other possible problems. For 2012, the unallocated provision was 500 millions, an high one because the MOD is still dealing with the many (and expensive) changes mandated in the SDSR. In the next years, the provision will be of around 200 million in each budget cycle.
This is a cross-sector reserve of 2 billions spread over 10 years. The total expenditure of the MOD over 10 years approaches 400 billions, so it is evident that Equipment is only part of the problem. Manpower is by far the heaviest voice of expenditure, and that's why manpower has been steeply reduced in the cuts.

As we know, however, the MOD has been badly affected by the cuts announced in the Autumn Statement of the Chancellor: the result is that a significant part of the 2 billion reserve is going to vanish in 2013 and 2014.

The reduction in our resource Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) of 1% for 2013-14 and 2% for 2014-15 is the methodology that was adopted for all Departments with three exceptions. Everyone else was treated in exactly the same way as we were.

The exceptions are NHS, Education and International Aid.
Defence was not spared and as a consequence will lose £250m in 2013/14 and £490m in 2014/15.
As a consequence, the 2012 underspend is effectively going back to the Treasury anyway: the permission to "move" this money on to the next two financial years is rather "virtual", as the money will effectively go back to the Treasury.
And it won't even be enough, as one billion out of 1.5 is money that IS going to be spent: these 1000 millions had been set aside to cover the costs of industrial liabilities and personnel redundancies caused by the SDSR, and to finance some of the equipment programs. They have not been used up in 2012 because things have developed in a slower way than expected, but they are costs that are not gone away.
The 740 millions in cuts that the MOD has to tackle in the next two years will eat away the 500 million unused provision moved on from 2012, and part of the unallocated provisions built into the next two years (which should be, as we saw, 200 million in each year).

The cut is manageable, and will not impact the Core Committed equipment budget, nor manpower. However, there obviously is an impact, as that money could have been eventually employed to help fund programs currently on the White Board:

Clearly our previous plan was based on not having that adjustment. Would we otherwise spend it? Yes. I am fairly sure that we would have spent it on appropriate things in accordance with what the defence board decided it should spend that budget on.

For now, there is no big shock, and no impact on the Equipment Budget, but something which could have been given funds and go ahead from the White Board will now have to wait. The real battle will go on over the new year, as the Treasury rolls forwards with a new Spending Review connected with the plan for an extended Austerity period lasting up to 2017/18. 
The Spending Review will determine the amount of money the MOD receives from 2015/16 onwards. Currently, the MOD is working to the assumption that its budget will be flat in real terms (no increases but no cuts either), with the famous 1% budget uplift (for the sole equipment program) in the three years from 2015 to 2018.  
Any reduction imposed on the MOD's budget will have a dramatic impact on military capability that will no longer be possible to absorb with contingency funds without putting the whole plan at serious risk.

The MOD is now planning prudently and rather efficiently: there has been a big impact on capability (and we don't even know yet exactly how many programs have been killed in the book-balancing effort) but there now is a conceptually-simple but effective plan to control spending and deliver programs in the decade.
The Treasury, however, is already starting to put the whole thing at risk: first of all, the MOD desperately needs to be able to negotiate its budget with the Treasury. If a program, for whatever reason, does not reach the Investment point in-year as was expected, the MOD must be able to keep the money, to spend it the following year when the moment comes: if the Treasury claws it all back, when it'll be time to pay the MOD will no longer have the money.
As we have seen, there is a special agreement in place to cover the next two years, but the Treasury must allow the MOD to carry forwards unspent money in the following years too, if the plan has to work.

In the past, knowing that every penny not spent was a penny lost, the MOD used to commit, each year 100% of its money. That meant having no reserve at all to meet cost increases, delays, unexpected changes etcetera, causing the infamous policy of cancelling and deferring, which solved the problems in-year but made them ten times worse in the following financial cycles.

Now that the MOD is genuinely trying not to repeat that suicidal approach, it is fundamental that the Treasury does not get in to claw the underspend away, otherwise the MOD, quite understandably indeed, will be more than tempted to return to the old methods.  

As a last important information, the Afghanistan war expenditure is falling. This additional money is provided by the Treasury over and above the rest of the defence budget, and the cost fell from £3.777 billion in 2010-11 to £3.458 billion in 2011-12. This year it should be around 2.5 billion.
The cost of the last two years of the Campaign, 2013 and 2014, is still being determined: importantly, it will include the money needed to fund the return of equipment to the UK.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

My best wishes to all my readers and followers. 
Running this blog has been an exciting ride this far, and I like to think I’ve provided some good information and food for thought to whoever visited. In the short life of this blog, the trend has been a constant growth in terms of visits and number of comments (and spam assaults too, but that's to be expected as a consequence of the first two!) that I hope to see continuing. 

I want to thank you all for your support, for your visiting and for your comments, while I wish you the best Christmas and a happy new year. 

And if sometimes my articles have been boring, unclear, not as detailed as you would have liked, I apologize. I apologize for my errors and mistakes, including my use of "naval miles”, which, of course, caused horror in some comments I’ve read on an article of mine in another forum. Message received, I’ll try and educate my hands in using the correct term. Have mercy on me, I do remain an Italian-speaker, after all!
For all my errors, all I do is done with the best of intents, to try and provide the most accurate, timely and complete information and, of course, some educated speculation as well, when there is scope to suggest and guess. 

I can only add that I hope in a better year for defence, as we go towards 2013. The last few years have been among the most painful, and they have left wounds that are going to be felt long into the future. May 2013 bring better news and some relief for everyone in Defence. 
I'll be here to talk about it, as always. 

Special wishes and thank you for all serving and retired members of the Forces: you are still the finest! 


Friday, December 21, 2012

Defence news is simply too easy to ignore

Joel Shenton, former editor of, talks about the problem of how insufficient and inadequate press coverage of matters of national defence contributes to the low weight that "the first duty of government" has in policy making.

In early 2011, I asked a Ministry of Defence press officer in main building what their job involved, bearing in mind there had been months, maybe even years, of bad news  for defence by this point and surely it was a press officer’s remit to make the picture seem...well, a bit rosier. How did they realistically expect to make bad news sound good? “Well, most of the time we can't make it positive,” he said. “All we can do, really, is damage limitation.”

And damage is probably the best term for the press coverage the armed forces have received in recent years. A miserable picture has been painted, and that’s after the MoD press office has had a hand in it. It is a picture that has caused outrage among certain sections of the public, but if we’re honest the bad news only seems to have sunk in for former military personnel, military families and defence industry workers. Along with military enthusiasts, that means hundreds of thousands of people are well informed, but there is an enormous gulf between their understanding of defence issues and the general public’s. As a country, the UK doesn’t seem all that interested in how it is defended.

Of course, as someone who was recently made redundant, I am aware of the financial issues at work here, but for a lot of people, the difference between CAS and CASD is just the letter ‘D’, and even though I no longer work in defence journalism, the level of ignorance still rankles.

According to national coverage of defence, the Royal Navy scrapped HMS Invisible in 2011 (an error it took The Telegraph over a week to correct), and Spitfires were fighter jets (from a BBC Breakfast interview with Burma Spitfire recovery man David Cundall). Even though the term is obviously wrong based on a single glance at the aircraft, the BBC made this mistake without batting an eyelid. An ITV News producer rang me up before military action in Libya began to ask if the UK would send Typhoon jets from an aircraft carrier and how big Libya was compared to the jet’s range. The Sun also recently claimed that a test-firing of Trident was a “warning to Argentina”. No. No it wasn’t.

Now some of these examples are innocent enough mistakes, but they paint a poor picture of where defence sits in the pecking order in national newsrooms. Yes, there are journalists, dozens, who understand the nuts and bolts of UK defence, but producers, subbers and editors appear unsympathetic or out of the loop. And it is they who decide what gets pride of place in the news agenda.

Defence also suffers from a disproportionately large amount of ‘leaks’, whereby a journalist’s exclusivity on a piece of information can propel a defence story to the front of the newspaper, but this doesn’t change the fact that general coverage is inconsistent at best. The sheer number of leaks allows those doing the leaking to set the news agenda. By its nature, defence is a secretive and complex subject, and those controlling the drip drip of information out of the MoD are able to easily set the agenda for the hungry journalists on the outside. The secrecy, complexity and power structures within defence have priced it out of the reach of regular day-to-day coverage, and many newsrooms appear to have simply given up.

Shortly before the SDSR, Liam Fox wrote a letter to the Prime Minister saying the ‘Draconian’ cuts would put the national defence at risk. It was ‘leaked’ to the press. Fox was outraged, he said, and an MoD police investigation was launched. If the defence secretary can’t write to the Prime Minister in confidence (and what’s wrong with a bloody phone call, let’s be honest!) then something is seriously wrong. So up to 30 officers were investigating the source of this mysterious leak, which must have passed through...possibly five pairs of hands on its journey to number 10. What was the end result? Well for a long time, play was made that the investigation was complex and ongoing. Finally, earlier this year, I asked an MoD Police press officer what the deal was with that letter. “The investigation was concluded and the results reported to the Secretary of State”, came the response. I was dumbfounded. Trying to get meaningful answers out of the MoD  - who would almost certainly refuse to discuss those answers on security grounds - would take months and they knew it. All over something which appears so completely obvious that the best available guess must ultimately prevail in the imagination of the public. With odd behvaiour like this, it is no wonder the MoD is referred to as the Whitehall Puzzle Palace.

When army cuts were announced earlier this year, Army 2020 as they were called, the focus was instantly on the loss of cap badges. Not only were the cuts unpalatable, they were getting rid of established battalions, ones with successful recruitment records like 2 RRF. Scotland was probably going to lose battalions, and that could cost votes in the independence referendum. Of course, it is more important that the big picture of the army’s structure is balanced, rather than some old cap badges being preserved, but lost in the furore surrounding the regimental system was the suggestion that signals, artillery and engineer regiments would go, to be replaced, in some cases, by reservists as part of the ‘fingers crossed’ reserve force plans. The weight given to the leaks and outcry in defence reporting smothers any attempt at a more general day-to-day understanding of defence of the realm. Army 2020 leaks directly influenced which regiments were cut, dictating rules on preserving cap badges. As it turns out, outrage doesn’t have much of a shelf-life, so with the story exhausted, the day-to-day needs of the army and the business of running armed forces have since slipped back into relative obscurity.

Defence news is very easily ignored by the casual television viewer, very easily pushed down news agendas in papers because it can be technical, loaded with jargon and generally difficult to understand.

Defence is said to be the first duty of government, but it is reported nationally as though it were a sixth or seventh, falling somewhere after health, crime, social services, Europe, TV talent competitions and the weather.

The issue remains, and it is not being reported anywhere near seriously enough, that of all the 2020 force structures being developed by former big Cold War players, Britain’s is the least fit for purpose. It is a plan for forces small beyond the obvious population size limitations and is the most clearly austerity-led planning document for some time. Our forces are being cut to save money and that money is going into other government cash vacuums. Future Force 2020 will have some fine equipment at its disposal, but each service will be small, the Royal Navy too small to operate both aircraft carriers even, and it will not be enough to convince the new or old superpowers that we’re a serious contender. You cannot do more with less; you can only do less with less. And we do not even have a valid national strategy document saying what 21st Century Britain wants to do with itself.

Britain has a role in the world, but it is currently one that is shaky and ill-defined and there are very few votes to be won in correcting that. If you want votes these days you have to talk about money, not safety. We are so used to effortless post-Cold War national security that it is being  taken for granted that conventional forces’ days are numbered. Well, the sooner Britain gets its head out of its economic ass, the better.

British forces did a fine job in Libya, but the recent equipment cuts meant that for all the expertise and equipment sent out there, we were reduced to tagging along with the US like the fat kid on the football team.

What do soldiers do on 'patrols' ? Is their equipment good enough day to day or do we have to wait for 20 or 30 to die before we turn immediately to outrage over one issue? Are our armoured vehicle plans up to scratch? These are things you couldn’t reasonably expect your average Briton to answer, but you should be able to. Defence deserves better coverage.

There will always be some people that ‘do’ defence, interest groups or armchair admirals like me, but as long as defence is way down the news agenda there are plenty of opportunities to ignore it. And that, my friends, is a crying shame.

 Joel Shenton, former editor of

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Interesting words

A written answer of interest was given yesterday in Parliament, which provides a bit more detail on the Core Defence Budget and, crucially, on what fits into it. It is worth reading into it, and point out a few things.

17 Dec 2012 : Column 611W

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the statement of 14 May 2012, Official Report, columns 261-4, on defence budget and transformation, what airlift capabilities are part of the Core Equipment Programme. [132888]

Mr Dunne: The airlift capabilities in the Core Equipment Programme consist of current in-service capabilities plus the following equipment programmes and their support costs for which funding is allocated:

A330 Voyager
A400M Atlas
BAE 146 Quick Change - interesting to see the two QC airplanes included in the Core budget: they have been procured as an Afghanistan UOR, but the inclusion of them in this list suggests that they might well have already a long-term future ensured, which would be very good news.

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the Statement of 14 May 2012, Official Report, columns 261-4, on defence budget and transformation, what helicopter capabilities are part of the Core Equipment Programme. [132889]

Mr Dunne: The helicopter capabilities in the Core Equipment Programme consist of current in-service capabilities plus the following equipment programmes and their support and training costs:

Chinook Mk6 New Buy
Apache Capability Sustainment Programme - i covered this point in great detail here.
Merlin Capability Sustainment Programme - albeit not specified, this should include the CSP for the HC3 utility Merlins (to be known as HC4 following CSP), not just the soon-to-be-completed HM2 upgrade for the Navy's own Merlins. From other answers and documents we know this will also include at least the assessment phase funding for navalisation of the HC3. The HC4 navalised is expected in service in the Commando Helicopter Force from 2017. The HC3 will be working with the CHF already from 2016, however.  
Puma Life Extension Programme
Falkland Island Search and Rescue and Support Helicopter - a decision on how this will be delivered after 2016 has yet to be taken
Wildcat—Army and Navy variants - Still unclear what is happening with the 8 Light Assault Helicopters that were announced in planning round 2011. The annual NAO Major Projects Report should help us understand what is going on in this field.

At the start of this year Jane's reported that the work ongoing to define the Merlin HC3 CSP and navalisation had generated a list of modifications including:

- Cockpit and avionics from the HM2 upgrade, to maximize logistic and training commonality
- Powered folding main rotor head and tail pylon
- Radar Identification System
- Flotation gear
- Lashing points for deck operations at sea
- Telebrief equipment

I'd expect a full fitting of fast roping equipment, which is not indicated but nearly certain to be among requirements. The folding tail i would personally put on the "we'd like to, but...": already in 2010, the Royal Navy had been quietly saying that, since on the new carriers the space is not as much of a problem as on HMS Ocean, they'd content themselves with the folding rotor, in order to save money.
So i wouldn't be surprised if the tail stays as it is. Of course, we'll have to see what happens.

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the statement of 14 May 2012, Official Report, columns 261-4, on defence budget and transformation, (1) what carrier strike capabilities are part of the Core Equipment Programme; [132890]
(2) what the surface fleet is in the Core Equipment Programme. [132891]

Mr Dunne: The Carrier Strike capabilities in the Core Equipment Programme consist of the following equipment programmes and their support and training costs for which funding is allocated:

Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers
Joint Combat Aircraft - F35B
Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) Tankers - contracts signed, first tanker to be delivered in late 2015 and the other 3 to follow at six months intervals 
Crowsnest—Airborne maritime surveillance and control, to be fitted to the Merlin Mk2 helicopter, which will replace the Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Control (SKASaC) system - Assessment Phase to be launched early in the new year. Reportedly won't be in service before 2020, leaving a very dangerous, damaging gap in the Navy's capability for several years. I still hope in common sense to prevail: i'm sure the pace of Crowsnest can be speeded up immensely if there is the will to do so.

In other documents, notably the MOD Top Level Messages, it is reported that money is also included for the first phases of the design of the 3 Solid Support Ships meant to replace the current Forts. No explicit promises about funding for their acquisition yet. It would thus appear that the SSS will be either built in the 2020s, outside the current financial planning horizon, or that it is on the list of things competing to get part of the 8 "uncommitted" billions in the 2015 SDSR. If the Forts aren't life extended further (very possible) they will retire in the very first years of the new decade, making their replacement rather urgent. 

The latest concept renders of the MARS SSS design. Not at all sure they will be like this when the day finally comes, but the design is very promising, including apparently a well deck, a vehicle deck with RoRo ramp and craneage for a couple of LCVP MK5 landing crafts or boats of the same general sizes. We do know, at least, that the SSS will use the Rolls Royce Heavy-RAS equipment, capable to transfer 5-ton pallets instead of the current 2-ton pallets. The H-RAS is already being installed onshore at HMS Raleigh base to provide the long term Underway Replenishment (UNREP) training facility.

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the Statement of 14 May 2012, Official Report, columns 261-4, on defence budget and transformation, what fast jet capabilities are part of the Core Equipment Programme. [132892]

Mr Dunne: The fast jet capabilities in the Core Equipment Programme consist of current in-service capabilities plus the following equipment programmes and their support and training costs for which funding is allocated:

Typhoon Tranche 3 - 3A only, i'm assuming.
F35-B Joint Strike Fighter (Lightning II) - 48 of them?
Typhoon Future Capability Package 1 - Paveway IV and other improvements, in service from next year
Typhoon Future Capability Package 2 - Integration of Storm Shadow and Brimstone included. RAF wants and needs it before Tornado GR4 leaves service in March 2019. Some thought will also be in order regarding Imagery Intelligence currently provided by Tornado with RAPTOR pods. 

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the statement of 14 May 2012, Official Report, columns 261-4, on defence budget and transformation, what heavy armoured platforms are part of the Core Equipment Programme. [132894]
17 Dec 2012 : Column 612W
Mr Dunne: The heavy armoured platforms in the Core Equipment Programme consist of the following in-service capabilities:

Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank - a 500+ million CSP for 227 tanks is also part of the budget, we have been told.
AS90 Self Propelled Artillery piece
Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle
Titan Armoured Bridge Layer
Trojan Armoured Engineer Vehicle

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the statement of 14 May 2012, Official Report, columns 261-4, on defence budget and transformation, what counter chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear capabilities are part of the Core Equipment Programme. [132895]

Mr Dunne: The chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear capabilities in the Core Equipment Programme consist of current in-service capabilities plus the following equipment programmes and their support costs for which funding is allocated:

Aircrew Protective Equipment and Detection
Hazard Management
Light Role Team Enhancement
Medical Countermeasures
Networked Biological, Radiological, and Chemical Information System
Personal Decontamination

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the statement of 14 May 2012, Official Report, columns 261-4, on defence budget and transformation, what submarine capabilities form part of the Core Equipment Programme. [132896]

Mr Dunne: The submarine capabilities in the Core Equipment Programme consist of current in-service capabilities plus the following equipment programmes and their support and training costs for which funding is allocated:

Astute Class submarines - 7 vessels
Successor programme to replace the Vanguard Class submarines. The main investment decision is due in 2016.
Maritime Underwater Future Capability - initial studies into the shape and capabilities of the next generation SSN meant to replace the Astute class

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the statement of 14 May 2012, Official Report, columns 261-64, on defence budget and transformation, whether the cost of personnel from all three services is included as part of the Core Equipment Programme. [132897]

Mr Dunne: The cost of service personnel is not included as part of the Core Equipment Programme.

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the statement of 14 May 2012, Official Report, columns 261-64, on defence budget and transformation, whether any items on the single integrated priority list are included in the Core Equipment Programme. [132899]

Mr Dunne: The Single Integrated Priority List is a consolidated list of the Ministry of Defence's future priorities for investment in military capability. It is separate from the core equipment programme, which consists of those equipment programmes to which we have already made a commitment to invest, their support costs, and the support costs for in-service equipment.
During the course of Annual Budgeting Cycle 13, the new discipline in our budgetary regime has allowed us to give the go ahead for a series of equipment projects, some of which were previously on the Single Integrated Priority List, which have now been brought into the core equipment programme. This includes targeting pods for fast jets, 76 additional Foxhound patrol vehicles (the minister here is presumably talking of the two separate orders for 25 and 51 additional vehicles that we have had), better protection systems for Tornado GR4, additional precision-guided Paveway IV bombs and enhancements to Merlin helicopters.

As far as i'm aware, there have been no details released about orders for additional targeting pods: Litening III no doubts, but how many? 
Similarly, there is no details about the 'better protection' for Tornado jets. A wild guess is that the current UOR enhanced countermeasures employed in Afghanistan might have been secured for long term use. This includes the Advanced IR Counter Measures (AIRCM) pod, based on Terma's Modular Countermeasures Pod, flown on the port wing. On the starboard wing, the Tornadoes employ the legacy flares dispenser.  

In recent times, another UOR introduced a Helmet Mounted Cueing System, which might have now received additional funding to make it available to a greater number of crews, since it was initially procured in very small numbers. The HMCS had earlier been used on the Harrier GR9.

The enhancements to the Merlin are also a mystery at the moment. 
As for the additional Paveway IVs, it is a debatable claim that possibly implies uncomfortable truths: substantial Paveway IV orders, after all, are supposed to be funded by the Treasury as part of the net additional cost of Operation Ellamy in Libya, where hundreds of Paveway IVs were expended, along with many Paveway IIs. 
The Paveway IIs that are not being replaced, the expended Stom Shadows neither (part of why the costs announced in Parliament appeared so low!), but the Paveway IVs and Brimstones used are supposed to be replaced with Treasury money. The suspect is that, at the end of the day, the money is actually coming out of the MOD's budget. 

A good news is that, as part of the latest orders, Raytheon UK is progressing with the demonstration of a bunker buster warhead for the Paveway IV assembly. This is part of a series of enhancements and evolutions to the bomb envisaged under SPEAR Capability 1.   

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the statement of 14 May 2012, Official Report, columns 261-4, on defence budget and transformation, what Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance capabilities are part of the Core Equipment Programme. [132900]

Mr Dunne: Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) in the Core Equipment Programme consists of current in-service capabilities plus the following equipment programmes and their support costs for which funding is allocated:

Airseeker—Airborne signals intelligence - 3 Rivet Joint airplanes to replace the Nimrod R1s
Crowsnest—Airborne maritime surveillance and control
Scavenger—Future armed operational unmanned air system (UAS) - a long expected announcement on the way ahead, to be chosen jointly with France, has been delayed again and again, but it's at least reassuring to see the programme is part of the Committed budget 
Seaseeker—Maritime electronic surveillance - includes the fitting of SIGINT/ELINT equipment to the Type 45 destroyers, underway
Seer—Tactical electronic surveillance deployed on land - UOR brought into core: man-portable electronic warfare equipment, part of the wider Landseeker effort that succeeds the cancelled Soothsayer programme 
Sentinel—Airborne wide area surveillance - very glad to see Sentinel in the core budget: considering how the answer is formulated, this would suggest that plans to scrap the Sentinel in 2014/15 have been finally abandoned 
Sentry—Air command and control and situational awareness
Solomon—A programme to improve the coordination and dissemination of ISTAR
Watchkeeper—Tactical UAS

Replacing Nimrod MRA4

In the meanwhile, the government has replied to the damning report of the Defence Committee on Maritime Surveillance, making clear that the future procurement of a Maritime Patrol Aircraft will necessarily pass through a wider study known as Air ISTAR Optimisation Strategy (AIOS): 

[...] the Department currently has no defined requirement for an MPA capability. The study into Wide Area Maritime Underwater Search (WAMUS) concluded that in the near term the most appropriate solution to a potential underwater surveillance requirement was a manned aircraft, but the Department’s longer term objective is to merge as many surveillance requirements as possible into single equipment builds (e.g. radars that can operate in multiple modes and in all environments) and to further refine platform types, capabilities and numbers to achieve maximum effect at minimum cost. As such, those requirements previously covered by the Nimrod MR2/MRA4 capability are now
integrated in the Air ISTAR portfolio and work is underway in the form of the AIOS to understand how these requirements can be best covered from the current and planned Air ISTAR Fleet.
The initial findings of the study will be reported to the Military Capability Board (MCB) in April 2013. Those options that appear to merit further investigation will then be developed to inform a MCB Genesis Option Decision Point prior to CSR15/SDSR15. As set out above, we will keep the Committee informed of our work in this area. In the meantime, we have investigated what military off-the-shelf capabilities exist. For comparison, generation of the AIRSEEKER airborne signals intelligence capability, replacing Nimrod R1 through an extension to the US RIVET JOINT aircraft production line, will have taken just under five years from the identification of the requirement to reaching Initial Operating Capability. Should the situation warrant it, adoption of off-the-shelf platforms, coupled with the Seedcorn personnel, could establish a capability in significantly less time.

This means that the budget holder for the Maritime Patrol Aircraft is the newborn Joint Forces Command. 

Expanding SATCOMs

Another news is that tomorrow the Skynet 5D satellite will be launched. It has already been mated to the Arianne rockets that will bring it into orbit.
The addition of this new satellite to the constellation will dramatically enhance and expand communications for the armed forces.
Skynet 5D will meet its 3 equivalents in space, which are also supported by 3 earlier Skynet 4 satellites and by the old but still useful NATO IVB satellite, which was taken over for free in 2011 from the Alliance which was about to put it on a dead orbit. It now provides two extra UHF channels to the armed forces. 

In 2022, ownership of all the satellites, currently in the hands of prime contractor ASTRIUM, will pass directly to the MOD at no additional cost.

Yearly speech of the Chief Defence Staff

A very interesting speech delivered by general sir David Richards, which contained elements of particular interest regarding Royal Navy and british Army.
The full speech, as available on the Ministry of Defence website, reads:


  1. Thank you Lord Hutton for your kind introduction. It is good to see so many friends and colleagues here and may I take the opportunity to thank you all for your strong support to the Armed Forces. It is hugely appreciated.
  2. I am feeling slightly cautious this evening. Our senior Defence Attaché in the Americas tells me that in the Aztec calendar today is the Day of the Lizard. They say:
  3. ‘The warrior must be like the lizard, who is not hurt by a high fall but, instead, immediately climbs back to its perch. These are good days to keep out of sight; bad days to attract attention.’
  4. So perhaps today isn’t the best time to be standing before you!
  5. In honouring my commitment to this august organisation that plays such an important role in the life of UK Defence, I want to take the opportunity to examine where we are today, what deductions we should draw, and what we are doing to ensure we are prepared for tomorrow.
  6. You are all aware of how much change there has been over the past two years. We have begun to introduce the SDSR, balanced the books and turned a corner in Afghanistan. Yet much of the world seems less stable and more dangerous than was the case even two years ago; a harsh world in which intra-state conflict can be confused by and for new forms of inter-state conflict. A world in which governance vacuums present opportunities for extremist groups to perpetrate large-scale violence and disruption, especially as precision-strike capabilities, cyber instruments and bio terror weaponry become inevitably more accessible. And this in a period when economic fragility makes us both more vulnerable and less able to respond in a confident and timely manner, a reality aggravated by the huge cost differentials between western forces and non-state opponents.
  7. All this is demanding much from all of us and is changing the shape and capabilities of the Armed Forces.
  8. Together with my fellow Chiefs I have been examining, as you would expect, how we should best use what we have and what we need for the future. We have to be hard-nosed realists; accepting we have less than we would wish but that we are still required to protect this nation’s interests through the projection of military force. We cannot shrug our shoulders and hope the problem will go away. We have to be ready to fight and fight effectively, often not on our own terms and accepting the constraints we are under. I have brought this together in a piece of work I will be sharing in the future called How We Will Fight. And I will look at some of its key deductions in a moment.
  9. We should be under no illusions; the Armed Forces of tomorrow, like those of today, will be engaged in operations around the world. They will require the best of their generation as they always have. People who can think flexibly and with imagination. As Einstein said, “imagination is more important than knowledge”.
  10. These operations will not be carbon copies of Afghanistan or Libya. But they will require the same skill and dedication that these operations, and all the others we have engaged in since the Cold War, have demanded. They will require the strength and indeed guile that our Army, Navy and Air Force are famous for.
  11. Building on the battle-winning reputation, proven resilience and technological edge of the past decade, I hope you won’t notice some of the tasks the Armed Forces will be doing. They will be performing a key part of our developing military strategy – deterrence. Preventing conflict, you may recall, is rightly a principal task of Defence.
  12. I will come back to this theme later but it is worth remembering that your Armed Forces are often most effective when they are not in the headlines. Few operations, exercises or training missions are widely reported but each one communicates that we are strong, credible and reliable. This deters our enemies and reassures our friends.
  13. And we should be proud of our nation’s record in this respect. The relative peace we have enjoyed here in the UK for the past 70 years is not an accident. It is in large part the result of the quiet work of diplomats building friendships, the skill of our financiers and businessmen in making our economy strong, and the courage of our Armed Forces in deterring and when necessary overcoming threats.
  14. Afghanistan is an example of this lesson. With our partners in NATO/ISAF and the ANSF we have been more successful than many, regrettably, recognise.
  15. I have recently returned from a visit there and, I can tell you, we are meeting the tasks laid on us. Over the past decade we have:
  • a. closed Al Qaeda’s bolthole ;
  • b. helped underpin a more stable government;
  • c. overseen elections;
  • d. trained an Army and police force;
  • e. and put a country that suffered 30-years of war into a position where industry, education and the rule of law are beginning to grow.
  1. True, there is a long way to go. The presidential elections in 2014 will be hugely important. But we are heading in the right direction and we have proved what can be done with the right resources and with the right support.
  2. I look forward to 2013 seeing us increasingly transition to an Afghan lead as we move from mentoring battalions to supporting brigades.
  3. The Afghan Army now enjoys the support and trust of 84 percent of the country, only 3 percent less than the British Army in this country. That is a fantastic achievement, by them and ISAF. It recognises the integral part they are playing in turning the destiny of a country away from violence and onto a path of peace.
  4. I am proud of what our Service men and women have achieved in Afghanistan. Alongside partners in DFID and the Foreign Office we have given Afghans a chance they couldn’t have dreamt of only a few years ago.
  5. Our operation in Afghanistan does not stand alone. It is linked to Pakistan and India and the wider region. In my recent trip to Islamabad, a city I have got to know well, I was very encouraged by the helpful attitude of civilian and military leaders to reconciling the Taliban. The Taliban, like us, are focussed on Afghanistan’s presidential poll and the end of our combat operations in 2014. They know that the window of opportunity to play a role in their country’s future is closing.
  6. Every day the Afghan Army and Police grow in capability and legitimacy. Every day the government is better able to serve its people and thus better able to marginalise the Taliban. Now, surely, the time is ripe to take risk in order to find that elusive political solution 10 years of military effort and sacrifice has sought to create the conditions for? But in order to pull this off, it is vital that Afghan confidence in the West’s long-term commitment to their country is retained. Why, should this be lost, would they stay the course themselves let alone fight to protect us in 2014 when, absent successful reconciliation, we will be at our most vulnerable? And why should the Taliban reconcile, if they thought we were ‘cutting and running’? Retaining Afghan confidence is the campaign’s centre of gravity. And for the UK, retaining our influence and status within NATO and amongst key allies, is another reason for getting this right.
  7. While achieving our goals in Afghanistan, British Armed Forces have been active elsewhere around the world. For example:
  8. In Libya we fought in support of a people who wanted to be free from tyranny. We joined allies from around the world built around a NATO core. Together, we supplied the air force and the navy. The people themselves were the army. They made the change happen.
  9. In the seas off Somalia we are playing our part in an operation that is controlling the spread of piracy. Alongside navies from around the world, including Pakistan, India and China, reinforcing the benefit of cooperation.
  10. Closer to home we have also been proud to play our part in HM the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. And my fellow Chiefs and I were delighted to receive so many letters of support for the actions of our Regular and Reserve Service men and women during the Olympics.
  11. It reminded all of us in uniform of the level of support that we enjoy amongst the people of this country. We are very grateful.
  12. All this has happened as we have been going through reforms.
  13. Over the past two years we have implemented some of the most radical changes to the Ministry of Defence and to the Armed Forces in decades.
  14. The SDSR shrank the size of the Armed Forces and changed the governance of the department. And whilst we are aware that the Autumn Statement has further implications, a balanced budget means we can start from a firm base and better demonstrate what is at stake.
  15. The new Armed Forces Committee mandates the Chiefs to resolve problems in the interests of Defence as a whole. It exploits collective military judgment and balances single service requirements in private allowing the CDS to go to the Defence Board with the underpinning authority of a combined Joint service view.
  16. The AFC, the Defence Strategy Group chaired jointly by John Thomson the PUS and me, and the new style Defence Board chaired by Philip Hammond enable the MOD to be more agile and decisive in responding at the strategic level to developing threats and trends. The world is not a safe place. Some threats to our interests and allies are long term but some are very present.
  17. The immediate danger of the collapse of the Syrian regime is one. We will support our allies in the region and would all like to see a diplomatic solution but cannot afford to remove options from the table at this stage. Should chemical weapons be used or proliferate, both President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron have made it clear that a line would have been crossed.
  18. And Syria is linked to Iran. The regime is backed by Tehran so the fall of Assad’s dictatorship will impact the Iranian government. What that means for the stability of the region is as yet unclear.
  19. In my recent trip to the Manama Dialogue I was struck by the issues that came up. Our host, Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain, emphasised the threat of nuclear proliferation. North Korea’s missile test last week aggravates this risk.
  20. The Kenyan and Ugandan armed forces have been exemplary in bringing order to Somalia but this has not been without cost. Both have sustained losses, and the retaliation of terrorist groups has endangered Kampala, Nairobi and the Kenyan coast. We must continue to support both countries, as well as the fledgling Somali government.
  21. To the west, Mali is a major cause for concern. As still is Yemen, despite President Hadi’s laudable efforts. So What?
  22. Now reducing these short and long term threats, our task is to evolve a force capable of meeting, with allies, various complex tasks. By the early 2020s, these plans result in a powerful Joint force that, on the basis of a balanced budget from Planning Round 12, should be able to meet the requirements laid on it.
  23. It has not been easy.
  24. But the Secretary of State, building on the work of the SDSR, has ensured that the department is able to squeeze the most from the resources available.
  25. By 2020 we will have kit that many of my fellow NATO Chiefs of Defence, saddled with much more sclerotic budgets than we, are envious of:
  • a. A World Class Carrier Capability with the JSF – Lightning II – on board;
  • b. Type 45 destroyers on patrol;
  • c. Type 26 frigates in production;
  • d. Astute class submarines;
  • e. Chinook Mk 6 bringing the total Chinook fleet to 60;
  • f. Typhoon Tranche 3, as well as the Lightning II;
  • g. Atlas and Voyager air transport and air-to-air refuelling aircraft, underpinned by our now larger C17 fleet;
  • h. Scout vehicles, upgraded Warrior, Challenger, and Apache to give the Army better reconnaissance, mobility and firepower;
  • i. Rivet Joint and other critical ISTAR platforms that will ensure we have better situational awareness than ever.
  • j. And much more emphasis on Cyber, to which I will return shortly.
  1. But our most decisive asset will remain our Service men and women.
  2. As the private sector puts it, we must look after the ‘talent’. As I see equipment around the world parked with no-one to operate it. Great equipment without talented people counts for little.
  3. We must ensure our people have the intelligence and confidence to treat the unexpected as an opportunity to exploit. They must be capable of informed, independent action; of what has been described as a ‘brains-based approach’ to operations.
  4. You have all heard the common refrain that we must do more with less. Well, to be frank, that is what we are doing. At the strategic level, a brains-based approach means deciding to act only when we must and then doing it well, not always kinetically.
  5. This type of thinking has shaped the work I have started on ‘How We Will Fight’. Assuming the approach I have just outlined, I and my fellow Chiefs have designed our forces to:
  • a. act jointly and with allies, but able to act alone.
  • b. be well equipped, but not tied to platforms.
  • c. adapt as the environment changes.
  1. But we must prioritise. And as spending has tightened, we must be ruthless in our requirements and getting the most from them. Effectively targeting limited resources is, in large part, the art of military command in war and in peace through force design.
  2. The new UK Joint Expeditionary Force is an expression of this. The JEF promises much greater levels of integration than previously achieved especially when combined with others, as is already happening with our French allies in the Anglo/French Combined JEF. The JEF must be genuinely synergistic. It is the building block to future alliances and independent action. And we would hope that allies such as Denmark and Estonia, who have fought with distinction in a British formation in Afghanistan, will want to play key roles within the British element of the CJEF.
  3. What it offers is clear: an integrated joint force with capabilities across the spectrum at sea, on land and in the air. A force that can confidently be allocated a specific slice of the battle space in an allied operation or act alone. It will be the basis of all our combined joint training.
  4. With the capability to ‘punch’ hard and not be a logistical or tactical drag on a coalition, we will be especially welcomed by our friends and feared by our enemies.
  5. The JEF will be of variable size; a framework into which others fit. It will be the core of the UK’s contribution to any military action, whether NATO, coalition or independent.
  6. Together with critical C2 elements such as HQ ARRC and the emphasis placed on the maritime component HQ at Northwood, the JEF is designed to meet our NATO obligations.
  7. In the Libyan campaign, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were able to play a vital role by bringing their regional expertise into the command structure of a NATO operation. This provided greater military and political reach. I look forward to the alliance, perhaps in part through the vehicle of the JEF, working more with non-member states.
  8. Britain’s JEF will be capable of projecting power with global effect and influence. Nowhere is more important to us than our friends in the Middle East and Gulf and in line with clear political intent we would expect, with other initiatives, for JEF elements to spend more time reassuring and deterring in that region.
  9. Let me briefly examine how the How We Fight work affects the single services, starting with the Royal Navy. As the Prime Minister has put it, the Navy “keeps the arteries of trade of the global economy from hardening.”
  10. The Royal Navy will continue to grow in importance. As our carrier capability comes into service it will be a key part of our diplomatic, humanitarian and military strategy. Prepared to overcome the toughest military challenges. This is its raison d’être. But I know it will be used for much more.
  11. The Americans demonstrated through their deployment to Aceh and Haiti that aircraft carriers have huge strategic impact supporting people around the world. Seeing US military personnel, ships and helicopters playing such a critical role boosted the standing of the US in the world’s most populous Islamic country and undermined extremist rhetoric.
  12. Hard power is an essential element of soft power. In this respect especially, numbers, or mass, still matter. We must resolve the conundrum at the heart of Bob Gates quip about ‘exquisite technology’.
  13. In the future, the Chief of the Naval Staff and I have a vision for a Navy which procures ships differently allowing us to have more, not fewer platforms.
  14. We must resist the pressure that has shrunk the number of platforms. Clearly that will mean rethinking the Navy, including examining the case for ships that may have a limited role in general war. But this is not new – remember the corvette over the ages – and is similar to the utility of light and heavy land forces, tailored to task. And in so doing we will ensure seamanship skills and leadership qualities, so much in demand by our friends and allies, flourish into the long term.
  15. The Royal Navy’s maritime and amphibious components, with 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines at the core of the latter, will be at the heart of Britain’s JEF. As the concept develops we will look to acquire ships that range from top-end war fighting elements through potentially to more vessels tailored to discrete but important tasks, to be deployed on a range of routine non-warfighting duties.

  16. The Army too is changing. Once we come out of the combat role in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, it will cease to be on permanent rotation with the burdens that imposes.
  17. The Army will maintain a hard power war-fighting capability while creating the strategic influence, support and engagement ability essential to modern operations.
  18. Like the Navy, these land forces must be equipped to pack a punch but war fighting is not all they’re for.
  19. Conflict prevention, to which I will return in a moment, is not just sensible strategy; it is a military operation requiring appropriately configured and equipped forces.
  20. The Army 2020 reforms are a fundamental re-set for the Army, making the best of a regular force a fifth smaller than when I commanded it only three years ago.
  21. While we will retain three high-readiness manoeuvre brigades, we will also have ‘adaptable brigades’ to sustain enduring operations and routinely develop partnerships and knowledge around the world.
  22. Though more conceptual work is needed, given the importance of the region and clear Prime Ministerial intent, I envisage two or more adaptable brigades forming close tactical level relationships with particular countries in the Gulf and Jordan, for example, allowing for better cooperation with their forces. Should the need arise for another Libya-style operation, we will be prepared. This would greatly enhance our ability to support allies as they contain and deter threats and, with our naval presence in Bahrain, air elements in the UAE and Qatar, and traditional but potentially enhanced roles in Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, would make us a regional ally across the spectrum.
  23. In Africa, brigades would be tasked to support key allies in the east, west and south whilst another might be given an Indian Ocean and SE Asian focus, allowing for much greater involvement in the FPDA, for example.
  24. If we are to influence, we must know what drives our friends and how to motivate them. This is not something that can be done on the eve of an operation. As these adaptable brigades develop links with countries around their region, this will create opportunities for soldiers and officers to progress their careers through linguistic and cultural specialism.
  25. The Defence Engagement Strategy, prepared with the Foreign Office, will provide what I have often referred to as a ‘strategic handrail’ for engagement.
  26. This will require tough decisions. If we are to invest properly in some relationships, others will naturally get less attention.
  27. But if we get this right ¬– and we will – we will have deeper links to specific regional partners giving them the confidence to deal with their own problems and, when appropriate, to act in partnership with us.
  28. What I have described puts military flesh on the bones of welcome, NSC endorsed, national strategy.
  29. This all comes as we are increasing the Reserves and integrating them closer with the Regular forces. This will do more to increase our own capacity and ability to help friends and allies.
  30. Turning now to the Royal Air Force. The rate of technological advance is most keenly felt on air platforms. This is understandable. These are complex fully networked combat and ISTAR platforms. This intelligence cuts the time between understanding and reacting. It allows us better to out-think and out-act our opponents.
  31. At the same time, lift, both tactical and global, reduces the number of reserves we need to keep, giving the Armed Forces a flexibility that was unimaginable just a few decades ago.
  32. Understanding and exploiting the opportunities technology presents will be decisive in maintaining our advantage – in sufficient numbers – into the future.
  33. Remotely piloted air systems and novel anti-air defences have changed our understanding of both what it means to fight and defend. We must not allow sacred cows – such as the indispensability of on-board pilots – to rule the day. The Chief of the Air Staff is leading the change. By giving ‘wings’ to UAV pilots the Royal Air Force is recognising the capability of the platform and skill of the pilot.
  34. Indeed, it is a reflection of how early we are in this process of transition that we still refer to remotely-piloted air systems or unmanned aerial vehicles. How long was it before we stopped referring to the horseless carriage?
  35. For all three Services, their role within an integrated CJEF will be the driving force in their force development and training. Whoever the enemy, wherever the threat, we will need partners. Building them now is an investment in our own future and our capacity to succeed quickly should war break out. Cyber
  36. But there is a new environment within which we must learn to manoeuvre with confidence.
  37. Today Facebook, with around a billion users, is the third most populous country in the world. It exemplifies one of the most extreme changes we have seen in the past decades.
  38. Cyberspace is the nervous system of our global economy. We are reliant on the internet and other networked systems for every aspect of our lives. It allows bewildering speed of action and global reach.
  39. Unsurprisingly, just as crime has become e-crime, spying has increasingly become cyber espionage. We have seen nations, their proxies and non-state actors use this new space for terrorism and conflict.
  40. Though not conventional assaults, the hostile cyber attacks on Estonia in 2007, Georgia in 2008 and Burma in 2010 were damaging.
  41. In the Middle East, there have been unprecedented levels of cyber attack over the past 24 months. Israel has reported over 44 million attempts to disrupt its government websites during recent tension around the Gaza strip. STUXNET demonstrated a new class of threat aimed at process control systems at the heart of modern infrastructure.
  42. Without doubt, actions in cyberspace will form part of any future conflict. Communication and the control of infrastructure and systems has become a new environment through which combatants will further their objectives.
  43. Our immediate priority must be to ensure our networks are secure and defensible, working with partners in industry and around the country to drive up standards and ensure we have robust protocols in place. This builds on the excellent work done under the National Cyber Security Strategy but Defence has particular challenges as a department, as Armed Forces and through the contractors and partners with whom we work.
  44. I am determined that the Armed Forces should understand cyberspace, and how it will shape future conflict, as instinctively as we understand maritime, land and air operations.
  45. This will mean changes in the way we operate: new doctrine; new capabilities; new structures, with Joint Forces Command at their heart. It will mean a new approach to growing and developing the talent we need to operate in this new, electronic, environment. Like our Secretary of State, I see an important role for reserves in this domain.

Winding Up

  1. In examining each environment separately I hope I have highlighted some of the key issues on the Chiefs’ plate and how we must respond to them. But the most important is developing an integrated Joint model.
  2. The JEF is neither the 1980s Canadian model nor, whilst there are some apparent similarities, is it a British version of the US Marine Corps.
  3. The effectiveness of the UK armed forces relies heavily on the different skill-sets and ethos of each single Service. Each adapted for its environment, and evolving as times and technology change.
  4. But a joint conceptual approach, based on lessons from the real world, embedded through force development, in training, on operations and though the cohering glue of modern C3I and cyber is vital to delivering the military capability the nation requires.
  5. This is about ensuring single Service skills meld into joint action so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  6. The JEF won’t mean we can do more with less; it will mean, through the synergy it provides, that we get the most from what we have. And doubtless there will be some roles that we continue to leave to others, notably the USA.
  7. As I close let me draw some lessons from my 41 years in uniform.
  8. Some constants which may seem obvious in this room but are often over looked:
  • a. The need for military force to influence, secure and protect is as great as ever.
  • b. I joined an Army that was geared to defend Britain by fighting in Germany.
  • c. Today life is more complex but the principle is the same.
  • d. 9/11, and the 7/7 bombings in London show that we cannot choose our battlefields as we once did.
  • e. The world is not a safer place and the distinction between home and abroad is strategically obsolete. Today it is part of a continuum.
  1. We cannot just stand by and hope we are ignored and danger passes us by.
  2. As the Foreign Secretary said in September last year: “the country that is purely reactive in foreign affairs is in decline”.
  3. Responses may be based on either soft or hard power, but to divorce the two is strategic blindness. Soft power is not a substitute for strength. On the contrary, it is often based on the credible threat of force, either to support a friend or deter an enemy. Hard power and soft power are intertwined.
  4. It is not enough to provide aid or speak kindly. Our friends want to know we are there when it counts, not just fair-weather friends. This is the confidence hard power brings. It drives equipment sales and thus industrial growth, as well as diplomatic treaties, just as it has for centuries. But hard power also does more than this: it dissuades.
  5. Deterrence doctrine has fallen out of fashion so perhaps you will allow me to recall some of the elements. Sun Tzu’s famous maxim is: “Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”.
  6. Too often this is seen as clever posturing on the eve of battle. It is not. Training, equipping and partnering with allies enhance the aura of British power. They give us presence on the world stage and ensure that we are not tested.
  7. It is worth being clear: when the Armed Forces train we do not just do it to be ready, we do it to be seen to be ready. When we succeed on operations, we do not just win a battle. We prove that we can win a war.
  8. In a very real sense, everything the Armed Forces do deters and reassures. With enough numbers, enough equipment and with good leaders at every level, Britain is a credible threat to our enemies and a reassuring friend to our allies.
  9. This is cheaper than fighting and more credible than talk.
  10. Reading the record of how the Soviets saw the Falklands War demonstrates this admirably. What many saw as post-colonial folie de grandeur, the Soviet leadership, rightly, saw as proof that the British Armed Forces were united with their government and people – Clausewitz’s famous trilogy – and more than a match for them.
  11. It was far from the only factor, but the increase in Soviet defence spending in the 1980s which ended up contributing to the collapse of the Warsaw Pact was partly due to clarity of their failure to impose their will in neighbouring, occupied countries while Britain could liberate territory some 8,000 miles away.
  12. As Chief of the Defence Staff I do not wear the burdens of office any more lightly than my predecessors. I have set out some of my concerns for the coming years and some of the ways we will think and act to meet them.
  13. Under the Prime Minister’s chairmanship, The National Security Council, on which I am privileged to sit, considers all the big strategic issues that I have listed and more. It is a hugely welcome addition to Whitehall, directing and bringing clarity to national strategy and coordinating cross-government action.
  14. But the nature of the world is such that what will later seem obvious, today is opaque and unpredictable. How will Europe emerge from the Euro crisis? How will the Arab Spring conclude? How will global warming affect water supplies? And what of cyber?
  15. After all, grand strategy, while providing a guide to action in peacetime, is also about being prepared and balanced for what we can never know.
  16. Ensuring we have enough left in the bag while actively deterring, and when required defeating, aggression against us and our friends, enough left to succeed against those ‘unknown unknowns’, is ultimately what I and my fellow Chiefs are paid for.

I have highlighted the passages that i deem more impressive and interesting. They go in the direction i've always suggested to follow: a UK with capable armed forces capable to act indipendently and, perhaps even more crucially, provide a framework in which less well-equipped countries can provide numerical strenght, helped by the crucial enablers fielded by the UK, including the aircraft carriers, the Sentinel R1, the Rivet Joint platforms, the RFA, the strong amphibious fleet and brigade and other elements. 
There is also a return to Nelson's "want of frigates", for which i've also been arguing: Nelson wanted cheap frigates in great numbers to serve as eyes for the fleet, and to cover the immense number of jobs that a navy has to cover every day, leaving the big, powerful and expensive ships of the line free to focus on delivering the thick of the military effect.
The Navy needs that kind of approach today more than back then. With the important difference, not always appreciated, that today's frigates and destroyers are the ships of the line, while OPVs and corvettes are the "frigates". The Royal Navy needs a fleet of simpler, smaller but capable, long range "presence" ships to cover the wide variety of not-warlike standing tasks, so that the "ships of the line" can focus on warfighting, reaction and task group roles.

I can't help but wonder if we can read in this speech a ray of hope for Portsmouth's shipyard, among other things: the CDS essentially agrees with me on the strategic concepts, and i think he would agree on the opportunity to begin the rebalancing of the fleet with an order for a couple of OPVs...

On strategy, i can't help but link back to two articles i wrote long ago on the subject. Reading back into them you will see why i recognize myself in the CDS's speech.